As Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday hosted the Indian contingent, which returned with 61 medals from the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, Sunita Thakur and Vinod Thakur sat intently watching his address on social media. The mother-son duo, at their native village Parsa in Himachal Pradesh’s Rohru district, were all ears as PM mentioned about Renuka Thakur who claimed 11 wickets, including two four-wicket hauls, for the silver medal winning Indian women’s cricket team.
“The performance of all the players was excellent. Nobody had the answer against the swing of Renuka Singh Thakur. To be among the top wicket-takers in the Commonwealth Games is no little achievement. Her face has the peace of Shimla and the smile of mountains but her aggression puts the top batters in trouble. Such performance will definitely encourage daughters from distant areas to dream big,” said Modi during his address to the players.
The PM’s remarks were enough to moisten the eyes of Sunita, who is Renuka’s mother. It also sent her on a nostalgia trip as she recalled Renuka’s early days in cricket and the tough times the family faced after the death of Renuka’s father Kehar Singh Thakur. “Whatever Renuka has achieved is due to her hard work and love for cricket. My husband died when she was very young, but I made sure that she and her brother did not face any difficulty. To listen to PM Modi praising Renuka today is one of the biggest moments for Renuka and the whole family,” said Sunita, who works as a class IV employee in Himachal Pradesh Irrigation and Public health department.
Renuka’s elder brother Vinod, who would take her to play along with him at the cricket ground near Kundi Nullah near the village, on Saturday met his and his sister’s team-mates at the village. He replayed the PM’s remarks on his cellphone as they hoped that the government will now build a stadium named after Renuka at the village to encourage girls and boys in the hinterland to aspire big. “When I would go to play cricket, Renuka would always ask to accompany me. As she played cricket at the village tournaments, her confidence grew. As PM talked about Renuka’s performance motivating girls from rural and distant places, the whole cricketing community here is now hopeful to see a stadium in the village or in Rohru district,” said Vinod.
The PM also mentioned about Bhiwani boxer Nitu Ghanghas in his address. The youngster, who hails from Dhanana village near Bhiwani, started boxing at Bhiwani Boxing Club. The pugilist won the gold in women’s 48 kg event with two of her bouts seeing the referee stopping the bout. “Nitu forced her opponents to leave the boxing ring with her dominating performance,” said Modi.
Nitu’s father Jai Bhagwan, who works as a bill messenger in Haryana Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh and is facing enquiry for missing work to support his daughter’s dreams, too was listening to the address. “To see PM praise Nitu has to be a special moment for all of us at our village as well as the boxing community. There was a time when Nitu wanted to quit the sport due to injuries and lack of medals but her hard work over all these years has made this day possible for us,” said Jai Bhagwan.
PM also praised Haryana wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Pooja Gehlot apart from praising Indian women’s cricket team captain Harmanpreet Kaur and the Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams. “In Hockey, I praise the efforts of both the men’s and women’s teams who are carrying forward India’s legacy in the sport. The Indian women’s cricket team under the captaincy of Harmanpreet Kaur won a medal in their first appearance in the Commonwealth Games,” said Modi.